Culinary Traditions in Minas Gerais

Food in Minas Gerais is an attraction simply by itself, and this local Brazilian cuisine alone justifies a trip to Ouro Preto. The typical dishes of Ouro Preto have distinct personalities and accents, originating in the union of different people and ethnic groups that give the region a sense of diversity. An equally diverse number of Ouro Preto restaurants will give you the chance to try Minas Gerais cuisine firsthand.

The Portuguese colonizers of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais brought with them a cuisine full of elaborate sweets and pastries, as well as full-bodied broths and meat stews. From the kitchens of local indigenous groups come the use of specific plants and spices, as well as cassava, a shrubby plant that is high in carbohydrates and energy and that is used in various ways, such as for tapioca.

African cuisine has had perhaps the strongest influence on food in Ouro Preto. Contributions from African cuisine, rooted in Brazil’s slave heritage, include the creative use of foods in their entirety, which comes from a historical necessity rooted in the meager diets of the slaves. Many African dishes have been adapted from European or other local recipes, but using the resources available in a creative way.

The Minas Gerais kitchen is a room with great cultural importance to local Minas Gerais residents. The kitchen is the centre of intimate family gatherings, where families not only eat but also spend time together, talk and share experiences. There is nothing better than good conversation next to the woodstove. The image of a traditional Minas Gerais kitchen is of a rural and rustic origin, where the woodstove serves as the main centerpiece. The woodstove not only serves to cook food, but also to warm the home, boil water through a special coil system and smoke meat for long-term preservation.

In addition to the woodstove, a traditional kitchen in Minas Gerais also includes rustic pots made of clay, cast iron and soapstone. These clay pots are much appreciated in Ouro Preto and are easily found in craft stores in the city. They give a distinct flavour to the food of Ouro Preto.

The core ingredients of many dishes in Ouro Preto are chicken and pork prepared with cassava flour, beans and sausage. Two such dishes are Feijão Tropeiro and Tutu de Feijão. Local sweets and liquors, which are made from regional fruits, add a delicious end to the meal, always accompanied by local cheeses.

There are so many tasty dishes local to the Minas Gerais state that it would be a difficult task to list them all here. However, one Brazilian cuisine experience that cannot be missed is the art of the quitandas. These cakes, biscuits and sweets are usually served as snacks in cafes, and the process that accompanies their preparation is something to experience.

Another typical and unmistakable local Minas Gerais dish is the Pão de Queijo (cheese board). Perhaps the best known local delicacy, this dish is served in cafes and Ouro Preto restaurants, and is a general local preference. This is a local dish that you can find in a grocery store. And don’t forget to savour a tasty Brazilian coffee!